Women, Science, and Myth: Gender Beliefs from Antiquity to the Present

By Sue V. Rosser | Go to book overview

Medicine

AMY BIX

Since ancient times, the theory and practice of medicine have been influenced by assumptions, generalizations, and myths about the differences between men and women. Across cultures and many centuries, folk medicine promoted superstitions about gender, such as a popular belief that the female body was connected to the lunar cycle.


Antiquity

In the fourth century BC, followers of Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” sought to separate medicine from magic and wrote numerous books analyzing female anatomy, women’s illnesses, and childbirth. Hippocratics argued that in their natural balance of the body’s four essential humors (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile), women were “colder” and “wetter” than men and therefore more emotional and more sexual. Women’s looser-textured flesh supposedly retained more moisture, and the Hippocratics warned that without regular menstruation to purge this surplus fluid, women could suffer mental distress, physical illness, or even death. Virgins at the onset of puberty were considered particularly vulnerable to mental disorders, stemming from menstrual irregularity before the womb had been “opened” via sexual relations, and some observers prescribed marriage as the “cure.” Without a woman’s regular menstruation or intercourse, humoral imbalances could dislocate the uterus from its proper place, and this “wandering womb” would cause head aches, pain, or other symptoms as it moved around the body. Physicians recommended enticing the womb back to its proper place with sweet scents, believing that the womb, like an animal, reacted to smells. This belief in the uterus as a primary source of women’s illnesses and strange weaknesses continued for centuries and led to the concept of “hysteria” (the word derived from the Greek for “uterus”) (Tuana 1993).

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Women, Science, and Myth: Gender Beliefs from Antiquity to the Present
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Chronological Section- Changes in Myths of Gender over Time 1
  • Antiquity 3
  • Medieval Era 17
  • Renaissance 31
  • The 18th Century 43
  • The 19th Century 61
  • Early 20th Century 79
  • Thematic Section- Concepts of Gender in Different Contexts 93
  • Disciplines - Chemistry 95
  • Physics/Astronomy 103
  • Mathematics 109
  • Computer Science 115
  • Biology 123
  • Psychology 129
  • Medicine 135
  • Technology 141
  • Aspects of Human Biology and Behavior - The Brain 149
  • Cognitive Abilities 155
  • Mental Illness 161
  • Personality/Rationality/Emotionality 167
  • Endocrinology and Hormones 173
  • Menstruation/Menopause/PMS 177
  • Early Modern Health 181
  • Gender/Sex—How Conjoined 187
  • Homosexuality 193
  • Race 201
  • Nature/Nurture 207
  • Institutions - Women’s Education 213
  • Motherhood 223
  • Religion 229
  • Universities 235
  • Federal Agencies 249
  • Industry 259
  • Professional Societies 263
  • Discrimination 273
  • Women Scientists as Leaders 283
  • Nobel Laureates 295
  • Gender and Occupational Interests 319
  • Other Perspectives on Gender and Myths and Beliefs in Scientific Research - Feminist Philosophy of Science 325
  • Biologists Who Study Gender/Feminism 337
  • Historians of Science and Technology Who Focus on Feminism 347
  • Primatologists Who Focus on Females/Gender 357
  • Critiques of Science 365
  • Marxism/Socialism and Feminism/Gender 373
  • Ecofeminism 381
  • Cyberfeminism 387
  • Race, Postcolonial Gender, and Science 393
  • Feminist Science Studies 399
  • Women’s Health Movement 405
  • Science Fiction 419
  • Conclusion 427
  • Appendix of- Statistical Tables 437
  • Glossary 445
  • Bibliography 469
  • Index 481
  • About the Editor 501
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